Then I Was Known as a Speculator

Ernest Cassel? Bernard Baruch? Apocryphal?

baruch09Dear Quote Investigator: There is an entertaining quotation about the changing labels that were applied to a famous financier. He was successively called a gambler, a speculator, and a banker, although he did not significantly change his methods. Do you know who crafted this humorous description of transformation?

Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI was published in a 1944 book titled “Bernard Baruch: Park Bench Statesman” which was a biographical work about the prominent investor, businessman, and presidential advisor. Baruch attributed the quotation to Ernest Cassel who was a merchant banker and confidant of King Edward VII: 1

…Baruch would quote Sir Ernest Cassel as saying, “When as a young and unknown man I started to be successful I was referred to as a gambler. My operations increased in scope. Then I was a speculator. The sphere of my activities continued to expand and presently I was known as a banker. Actually I had been doing the same thing all the time.”

That comes pretty close to being Baruch’s favorite quotation.

Ernest Cassel died in 1921; hence, the attribution in 1944 occurred rather late. Baruch popularized the quotation, and he included an instance in his 1957 autobiography as shown further below. Yet, QI is uncertain where Baruch obtained the comical remark. Perhaps future researchers will locate an earlier citation.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1947 the widely-syndicated columnist Leonard Lyons printed an instance and credited the words directly to Bernard Baruch without mentioning Cassel. The phrasing was slightly different. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Bernard Baruch talked to Jack H. Pollack, the magazine writer, and told of three stages in his Wall Street career: “When, as a young man, I started to be successful I was referred to as a gambler. When my operations increased in scope I was referred to as a speculator. And when the sphere of my activities continued to expand, I was referred to as a banker. Actually,” said Baruch, “I had been doing the same thing all the time.”

In 1957 the volume “Baruch: My Own Story” by Bernard M. Baruch was released, and it included a version of the quotation. Oddly, Baruch used the spelling “Cassell” instead of “Cassel” and referenced “King Edward VI” instead of “King Edward VII”: 3

I have heard attributed to Sir Ernest Cassell, who was the private banker to King Edward VI, a remark that I wish I had thought of first.

“When as a young and unknown man I started to be successful I was referred to as a gambler,” Sir Ernest said. “My operations increased in scope and volume. Then I was known as a speculator. The sphere of my activities continued to expand and presently I was known as a banker. Actually I had been doing the same thing all the time.”

In 1965 Leonard Lyons disseminated a shorter streamlined version of the remark in his newspaper column and credited the words to Baruch: 4

He said there were three stages to his Wall St. career: “When I started to be successful, I was referred to as a gambler. When my operations increased in scope, I was referred to as a speculator. Then as a banker. Actually, I’d been doing the same thing all along.”

A book published in 1977 ascribed the comment to Ernest Cassel and Baruch was not mentioned: 5

In English, and perhaps in European terms, an entrepreneur was a successful opportunist, much as a banker was a successful speculator, an attitude which was pithily summed up by Sir Ernest Cassel, who began his business life as a clerk in the London office of Bischoffsheim and Goldschmidt and who rose to be one of the richest and most influential men in England (when he died in 1921 he left over £ 7 1/2 million):

When as a young and unknown man I started to be successful I was referred to as a gambler. My operations increased in scope and volume. Then I was known as a speculator. The sphere of my activities continued to expand and presently I was known as a banker. Actually I had been doing the same thing all the time.

In 1985 the remark was included in a compilation titled “Money Talks: The 2500 Greatest Business Quotes from Aristotle to DeLorean” where it was attributed to Cassel: 6

When as a young and unknown man I started to be successful I was referred to as a gambler. My operations increased in scope and volume. Then I was known as a speculator. The sphere of my activities continued to expand and presently I was known as a banker. Actually I had been doing the same thing all the time.
Sir Ernest Cassel

In conclusion, this quotation was popularized by financier Bernard Baruch. He attributed the statement to Ernest Cassel, but QI has not yet uncovered substantive support that Cassel actually made the remark. Perhaps future evidence will be uncovered to establish a stronger linkage.

Image Notes: Bernard Baruch photo from Harris & Ewing Collection at the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons. Dice from OpenClips on Pixabay. Ernest Cassel painted by Anders Zorn. Detail from public domain portrait via Wikimedia Commons.

(Great thanks to Tobias Carlisle whose query led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)

Notes:

  1. 1944, Bernard Baruch: Park Bench Statesman by Carter Field, Quote Page 76 and 77, Published by Whittlesey House: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link link
  2. 1947 December 23, San Mateo Times, Broadway Medley by Leonard Lyons (McNaught Syndicate), Quote Page 8, Column 6, San Mateo, California. (NewspaperArchive)
  3. 1957, Baruch: My Own Story by Bernard M. Baruch, Chapter XIX: My Investment Philosophy, Quote Page 247, Henry Holt and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  4. 1965 June 29, The Post-Standard (Syracuse Post Standard), Section 2, Lyons Den by Leonard Lyons, Quote Page 12, Column 4, Syracuse, New York. (NewspaperArchive)
  5. 1977, The Jews by Chaim Bermant, Quote Page 53, Times Books, New York. (Verified on paper)
  6. 1985, Money Talks: The 2500 Greatest Business Quotes from Aristotle to DeLorean, Edited by Robert W. Kent, Section: Entrepreneurs, Quote Page 192, Facts on File Publications, New York, New York. (Verified on paper)